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Riviana Foods checks out UCCnet tools

iSeries user Riviana Foods Inc. found that, although retailers were pressuring the company to be UCCnet-ready, many of the tools being pitched by vendors were half-baked.

It took Riviana Foods Inc. just about two months to be UCCnet-ready and have its products listed on the UCCnet GlobalRegistry.

And while that may seem like nothing short of a miracle to the hundreds of suppliers trying to meet retailers' UCCnet-compliance deadlines, Mike Wessing, the guy who orchestrated the project for Houston-based Riviana, said the story is only half true.

In fact, Wessing, the IT director at Riviana, one of the largest distributors of private-label rice products in the United States, said that once he found a vendor it was smooth sailing, but the process leading up to that was more like muddy waters.

In an attempt to improve supply-chain inefficiencies, major retailers are pushing their suppliers to use UCCnet's Internet-based supply-chain management tool, GlobalRegistry.

UCCnet is a nonprofit organization, formed by the Uniform Code Council, to oversee standardization and synchronization of product data in the supply chain.

According to Wessing, it took from the end of July to the beginning of October to train Riviana staff, implement the software solution, and publish most of the company's Global Trading Item Numbers (GTINs) with one retailer: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Less than two weeks later, Riviana had published to a second retailer, Wegmans Food Markets Inc., of Rochester, N.Y. And Riviana is just about to go live with a third grocery retailer.

When Riviana officials first saw the growing interest in the global data synchronization movement, they realized change was afoot and that they should probably think about getting on board.

Wessing said his company had been getting pressure from retailers to join UCCnet, but he admitted that, at the time, it was all very confusing.

"We just started out trying to understand what it was all about," he said, "what they were all trying to accomplish and whether we should play into it and, if so, is this the right time?"

In November 2002, Riviana decided it was the right time and began to move forward to select a vendor. But "we didn't like what we heard," he said.

Wessing said the vendors seemed to either have the technical knowledge or the service-end knowledge, but that there wasn't one that knew how to do it all.

"Many of the partners couldn't answer our questions, and our desperation increased until we talked with Lansa [Inc.]," he said. "They seemed to know more of what needed to be done, as well as how to do it. Our confidence level immediately went up because Lansa's UCCnet Direct solution was developed using the iSeries platform, which we knew we could support."

Wessing said the company was also sold on Lansa's history as an iSeries tool vendor. "We thought we may be able to do some in-house development with their tool set if we went with a Lansa solution," he said.

Riviana uses two iSeries boxes to run its business operations. The iSeries production box runs Lansa UCCnet Direct; the second manages all communications and acts as a firewall because it is open to the Internet.

The project is going so well, Wessing said, the company is now contacting as many retailers as possible.

Wessing said that the decision to go with UCCnet was a strategic one and that, as a result, there isn't a hard ROI that's been calculated.

"The investment was something we felt we had to make to maintain our product line," he said.

The big benefit, Wessing said, is not that the current product line is in the registry -- rather, it's the advantage of issuing new products to the trade, which he views as a sales and marketing venture. As a result, he said, the responsibility for updating the new product information in the registry will eventually be handed over to sales and marketing.

UCCnet adoption rate soars, but frustration levels mount UCCnet Learning Guide


Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kate Evans-Correia, Senior News Editor

UCCnet adoption rate soars, but frustration levels mount

UCCnet Learning Guide

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